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Psychoneuroimmunology


Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), also referred to as psychoendoneuroimmunology (PENI) or psychoneuroendocrinoimmunology (PNEI), is the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body. PNI takes an interdisciplinary approach, incorporating psychology, neuroscience, immunology, physiology, genetics, pharmacology, molecular biology, psychiatry, behavioral medicine, infectious diseases, endocrinology, and rheumatology.

The main interests of PNI are the interactions between the nervous and immune systems and the relationships between mental processes and health. PNI studies, among other things, the physiological functioning of the neuroimmune system in health and disease; disorders of the neuroimmune system (autoimmune diseases; hypersensitivities; immune deficiency); and the physical, chemical and physiological characteristics of the components of the neuroimmune system in vitro, in situ, and in vivo.

Interest in the relationship between psychiatric syndromes or symptoms and immune function has been a consistent theme since the beginning of modern medicine.

Claude Bernard, a French physiologist of the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, formulated the concept of the milieu interieur in the mid-1800s. In 1865, Bernard described the perturbation of this internal state: "... there are protective functions of organic elements holding living materials in reserve and maintaining without interruption humidity, heat and other conditions indispensable to vital activity. Sickness and death are only a dislocation or perturbation of that mechanism" (Bernard, 1865). Walter Cannon, a professor of physiology at Harvard University coined the commonly used term, homeostasis, in his book The Wisdom of the Body, 1932, from the Greek word homoios, meaning similar, and stasis, meaning position. In his work with animals, Cannon observed that any change of emotional state in the beast, such as anxiety, distress, or rage, was accompanied by total cessation of movements of the stomach (Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage, 1915). These studies looked into the relationship between the effects of emotions and perceptions on the autonomic nervous system, namely the sympathetic and parasympathetic responses that initiated the recognition of the freeze, fight or flight response. His findings were published from time to time in professional journals, then summed up in book form in The Mechanical Factors of Digestion, published in 1911.



  • Stimulation of brain sites alters immunity (stressed animals have altered immune systems).
  • Damage to brain hemispheres alters immunity (hemispheric lateralization effects).
  • Immune cells produce cytokines that act on the CNS.
  • Immune cells respond to signals from the CNS.
  • Glucocorticoids and catecholamines influence immune cells.
  • Endorphins from pituitary & adrenal medulla act on immune system.
  • Activity of the immune system is correlated with neurochemical/neuroendocrine activity of brain cells.
  • Anti-inflammatory hormones that enhance the organism's response to a stressor.
  • Prevent the overreaction of the body's own defense system.
  • Regulators of the immune system.
  • Affect cell growth, proliferation & differentiation.
  • Cause immunosuppression.
  • Suppress cell adhesion, antigen presentation, chemotaxis & cytotoxicity.
  • Increase apoptosis.
  • CRH is a major regulator of the HPA axis/stress axis.
  • CRH Regulates secretion of Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).
  • CRH is widely distributed in the brain and periphery
  • CRH also regulates the actions of the Autonomic nervous system ANS and immune system.
  • Central mediated since peripheral administration of CRH antagonist does not affect immunosuppression.
  • Berczi and Szentivanyi (2003). NeuroImmune Biology, Elsevier, (Written for the highly technical reader)
  • Goodkin, Karl, and Adriaan P. Visser, (eds), Psychoneuroimmunology: Stress, Mental Disorders , and Health, American Psychiatric Press, 2000, , technical.
  • Maqueda, A. "Psychosomatic Medicine, Psychoneuroimmunology and Psychedelics", Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, Vol xxi No 1.
  • Osel, Joseph, D. (2008). "Being (Born) Black in America: Perceived Discrimination & African American Infant Mortality", The Evergreen State College Symposium on Psychoneuroimmunology; SSRN.
  • Ransohoff, Richard, et al. (eds), Universes in Delicate Balance: Chemokines and the Nervous System, Elsevier, 2002,
  • Robert Ader, David L. Felten, Nicholas Cohen, Psychoneuroimmunology, 4th edition, 2 volumes, Academic Press, (2006),
  • Roberts, Thomas B. (2006). "Do Entheogen-induced Mystical Experiences Boost the Immune System?: Psychedelics, Peak Experiences, and Wellness." Chapter 6 in Psychedelic Horizons. Westport, CT: Praeger/Greenwood.
  • Ihan Alojz, Hafner Mateja (2014). AWAKENING: Psyche in search of the lost Eros - psychoneuroimmunology, Alpha Center d.o.o., Institute for preventive medicine, .
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